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Take Me To 09.24.2019

10 Days Adventuring through Vietnam

Intro Stay Highlights itinerary

A country rich in complex history, delectable cuisine and home to the friendliest people imaginable, a visit to Vietnam is sure not only to ignite the senses but pull on your heartstrings, too.

Our journey exploring the country from north to south with trusted ground operator Abercrombie & Kent included stays in Hanoi, Ha Long Bay, Hội An and Saigon with cultural immersion at every turn. So pack your sneakers, grab your camera and let’s discover #VietnamNOW.

Duration

9 nights, 10 days

We Love it For

History buffs and exploratory travelers who want to get a bit out of their comfort zones

Trip Style

Adventure by day, luxury by night

Agent Notes

This north to south itinerary can be tweaked to include many other gems within Vietnam

Stay

Our top picks in Vietnam

Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi

Situated in the heart of Hanoi with its leafy boulevards and lakeside pagodas, this colonial-style hotel is ideally placed within walking distance to the famous Hanoi Opera House, Hoan Kiem (the Lake of the Restored Sword) and a number of art galleries and handicraft shops. Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi has been Hanoi's legendary landmark since its establishment at the turn of last century and has always proved a popular rendezvous spot for both business and leisure travelers. The hotel has 364 guestrooms and suites as well as a number of restaurants and bars including Le Beaulieu Restaurant (French), Spices Garden Restaurant (Vietnamese), Angelina Restaurant (Italian), Bamboo Bar, L'Orangerie and Le Club Bar.

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Orchid Cruise

Designed to be the most elegant cruising option through Ha Long Bay, each Orchid Cruises suite offers spacious cabins complete a private balcony and a king-size bed. This will be your home as you cruise into the stunningly picturesque seascape of Ha Long Bay, setting course for Da Chong islet. Settle into your deck chair and watch as its century-old French colonial lighthouse drifts by and ‘Orchid’ snakes her way past the islets of Con Vit and Gia Luan, their striking karsts rising dramatically from the tranquil bay. ‘Orchid’s’ course isolates you from the typical tourist route, winding past Thoi Quyt and Coc Ngoi islets.

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Four Seasons Resort The Nam Hai

Shining a light on Vietnam’s central coast and cultural heartland, Four Seasons' 35 hectares of landscaped gardens edge a private 1-kilometre stretch of Ha My Beach, ranked by Forbes’ as one of the "best beaches in the world". Situated 30 kilometres south of Da Nang, the Resort offers a gateway to three extraordinary UNESCO sites – Hue’s Imperial City, the temple sanctuary of My Son, and enchanting Hoi An – complemented by spectacular beachfront living. Each villa is immaculate, complete with indoor and outdoor sitting areas and, in the case of the Pool Villas, a private swimming pool. The cooking academy, Herb & Vegetable Farm and three eateries ensure culinary highs.

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Intercontinental Danang Sun Peninsula Hotel

Enjoy the very best of Vietnam at the multi-award winning InterContinental Danang Sun Peninsula Resort, a luxury hillside resort and spa overlooking a sparkling private bay. Famed architect Bill Bensley has reimagined Vietnamese design, history and myth with his characteristic whimsy, creating a magical retreat over four levels—Heaven, Sky, Earth and Sea. From the moment you arrive, you’ll be pampered by the InterContinental’s personal service and unparalleled amenities. Discover culinary artistry at La Maison 1888, by three-star Michelin chef Pierre Gagnaire. Soothe body and soul in our custom spa packages at HARNN Heritage Spa and treat yourself to the world’s finest pedicure at PEDI:MANI:CURE Studio by Bastien Gonzalez. Meet your neighbors, the rare red-shanked douc langurs who inhabit the lush forests of Monkey Mountain, or simply kick back and enjoy the 700-meter private beach.

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Park Hyatt Saigon

Experience the essence of the modern Vietnamese lifestyle at the Park Hyatt Saigon, a five-star hotel situated in Ho Chi Minh City center, just a few steps from Saigon’s main tourist attractions and business district. With 245 rooms and suites, the hotel plays host to world-class restaurants and bars, including Opera for Italian cuisine and Square One for Vietnamese fare. Park Lounge offers traditional Afternoon Tea, while 2 Lam Son martini bar is one of the city’s top nightlife destinations. Relax by the pool and refresh your senses in its lush garden after a long day in the bustling city — a sanctuary of peace.

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Highlights

  • Arrive in style thanks to some Cathay Pacific business class pampering Day 1
  • Get a taste for Hanoi by Vespa with several foodie stops along the way Day 2
  • Kayak through the karsts of Lan Ha Bay Day 4
  • Take a dive into Hội An's culinary scene with the chance to try exotic local delicacies Day 6
  • Treat yourself to the spa, beach + R&R Day 7
  • Ride from the Cu Chi Tunnels in 1970s Jeeps to an Insect Farm Day 9

ItineraryItinerary

1 Hanoi, Vietnam
Arrival (in style) to Hanoi

If there’s anything we feel passionately about at SmartFlyer, it’s arriving to your destination in comfort. Flying to Southeast Asia is no exception, particularly with a robust Abercrombie & Kent itinerary awaiting! Fortunately, the hospitality of our friends Cathay Pacific will ensure you’re more than ready to tackle the many forms of transportation (albeit less glamorous than Cathay!) ahead, from Vespas to speedboats and everything in between. After you’ve gotten your full eight hours of shut eye – shoutout to their fabulous lie-flat business class product – perused the StudioCX entertainment, snuck in a facemask (or two!) and enjoyed a traditional Chinese breakfast, arrive to the tarmac in Hanoi feeling rejuvenated and refreshed.

Upon arrival at Hanoi’s Noi Bai International Airport, you will be met by an Abercrombie & Kent representative who will assist you through immigration and customs before helping you collect your luggage. Take in the sights and sounds of Vietnam on the 45-minute drive in a private vehicle straight to the heart of the old city. Your home for the next two nights, the Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi is a French colonial landmark that has hosted ambassadors, writers, statesmen and entrepreneurs for more than 100 years. Take the afternoon to settle in and perhaps even enjoy the pool or spa for some true vacation vibes. We highly recommend a 90-minute Vietnamese massage where you’ll choose your own oil to really ease into the trip! Freshen up for your first culinary adventure; we especially love Madame Hien for an elegant interpretation of Hanoi street food, thanks to French chef Didier Corlu’s Vietnamese grandmother.

2 Hanoi, Vietnam

After breakfast at the Metropole, set out to explore this historic city, filled with the ghosts of a colonial past mixed with a vibrant, modern street scene. Visit Ho Chi Minh’s house, a simple structure on stilts located among banyan and milkweed trees; the lotus-shaped One Pillar Pagoda, rising from the center of a lovely lotus pond; and the sobering Hoa Lo Prison, or “Hanoi Hilton,” where American prisoners of war were once confined. For a true A&K experience, follow your visit to the prison with a stop at a local coffee shop for a conversation with Chuck Searcy, a former U.S. soldier. He’ll candidly share this story of being a twenty-something in the chaos of Vietnam and how it led to his work today with Project Renew, an organization dedicated to restoring the environment and neutralizing the effects of the war.

After a history-filled morning, you’ll be ready to see how the country’s rich past has guided its present impalpable current of energy. There’s no better way to get the true view of daily life than by hitting the streets as the locals do, on two wheels! With a reported five million motorbikes and a notoriously chaotic traffic pattern, it’s best to leave the driving to a professional. A&K will pair you up with your Vespa driver for the afternoon as you get ready to embark on a four-hour tour through Hanoi’s Old Quarter, sampling the country’s many culinary delights.

From authentic phở washed down by locally-brewed beer to rice paper-wrapped meat and veggies, you’ll discover all sorts of new flavors. We especially loved the lesson on fish sauce – a non-negotiable in Vietnamese cuisine – which involves doctoring up your bowl with a bit of freshly squeezed kumquat and fresh chiles for an extra bite. Finish off your foodie tour by Vespa with a stop at a cafe, where you’ll sit on the curiously tiny chairs that seem to line each street of the city. Try chè, a traditional dessert made of tapioca, black beans, coconut and perhaps a few things you can’t quite identify. We promise, it’s not as scary as it looks, give it a try (this will be a common theme through your trip)! Just make sure you save some room for your dinner at Duong’s Restaurant by Top Chef and Iron Chef Vietnam, Chef Huang Duong.

3 Ha Long Bay, Vietnam
Cruising through Lon Ha Bay

This morning, get ready to depart from Hanoi for a 2.5-hour car transfer (0r, for those who prefer a helicopter transfer to reach their cruise experience, your SmartFlyer travel advisor can work to arrange this instead, so long as you’re sailing on the Ginger) where you’ll board your stylish vessel for the evening. While cruising Ha Long Bay has become increasingly popular in recent years, Abercrombie & Kent works with select cruise operators overseeing luxury ships that sail the less trafficked Lan Ha Bay. Imagine approximately twenty boats in your immediate vicinity versus upwards of two hundred. Sounds like a no brainer, right?

The 14-cabin vessel Orchid 3 will be your home as you take in the stunningly picturesque seascape, setting course for Da Chong islet. Settle into your deck chair and watch as its century-old French colonial lighthouse drifts by and ‘Orchid’ snakes her way past the islets of Con Vit and Gia Luan, their striking karsts (the limestone formations that make for such a dramatic landscape) rising from the tranquil bay. This intimate ship’s course isolates you from the typical tourist route, winding past Thoi Quyt and Coc Ngoi islets.

Disembark on Cat Ba Island and travel overland through a stunning karst landscape cloaked in verdant forests on your way to Trung Trang Cave, with its intricate features formed over millennia. Explore the cave with the help of your guide who will share stories about its history as a home for women during the Vietnam War. Or, hang at the Jungle Bar if that’s more your speed! Once you’ve taken it all in and snapped a few pictures, head back to the boat where you can choose to swim in the bay before happy hour.

For the ultimate show, the ship will maneuver through the bay for the best vantage of a dramatic sunset framed against the Gulf of Tonkin shoreline. Join a Chef’s Table demonstration featuring traditional Vietnamese cuisine, followed by dinner on board. Choose to either enjoy the on-board jacuzzi (the only one on the entire bay!), have a game night with your fellow passengers or stargaze. Retire to your cabin to enjoy a restful night’s sleep as the waves lap gently against the hull.

4 Hội An, Vietnam
Travel from North to Central Vietnam

Active travelers can opt to wake up early for sunrise tai chi for a truly spectacular start to the day. Even better, cruisers have the option to go straight into kayaking. You’ll return to the Orchid just in time for brunch before disembarking. Your A&K ground team will be sure to handle your baggage as you are whisked to the airport for a short flight to Da Nang City. Don’t worry about your luggage as you arrive to Da Nang International Airport; a private car is awaiting for the 35-minute drive to the Four Seasons Resort The Nam Hai, your home for the next two nights.

Situated on the white sands of China Beach, the Four Seasons Resort the Nam Hai is located just 15 minutes from the UNESCO-protected, 15th-century trading port of Hội An. This all-villa property is the perfect home base to explore downtown or enjoy some R&R at The Heart of the Earth Spa which invites all to get in tune with universal vibrations from eight double treatment villas afloat on a lotus pond. Plus, the property offers daily cooking classes and foodie excursions through its Cooking Academy, which makes for the perfect fit for families or any traveler seeking immersive culinary experience designed to inspire and educate. Opt to have dinner at one of the property’s outlets or hit the town.

5 Hội An, Vietnam
Exploring the "Best City in the World"

After a delectable Four Seasons breakfast (be sure to try the cao lầu noodles!), get ready to burn it off by bike. This morning, you’ll be cycling to visit the “vegetable village” of Tra Que, named for the sweetly scented vegetable the Vietnamese use to enhance everyday meals. More than twenty herbs and vegetables are grown in the little village which supplies them to the surrounding areas. Try your hand at making tam huu (spring rolls), the village specialty. Then enjoy a walking tour of Hội An, voted “Best City in the World” in Travel + Leisure’s 2019 Reader’s Choice Awards.

A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the city’s rich diversity of architecture is a product of the many nations that traded in this historic port of call. Explore the Old House of Tan Ky, the Fujian Assembly Hall and the 400-year-old covered bridge. Then, be sure to make some time for custom tailoring, a tradition the city is known for thanks to its delicious fabrics and expert seamstresses. Tonight, experience local Hội An cuisine with a stroll through The Market for light bites of traditional dishes followed by a sit-down dinner at Mango Mango. Chef Duc Tran enhances the experience with a stop at the table to tell his story of how working all over the world (including in Texas!) before returning to his homeland of Vietnam influenced his approach to cuisine. Afterwards, if you’re down for some nightlife, Hội An is the place for it; there’s an entire row of lively bars to hang out and people-watch along Thu Bon River.

6 Da Nang, Vietnam
Enter: Beach Bum Mode

This morning after another epic breakfast and morning at leisure, say “see you later” (never goodbye!) to the Four Seasons Resort The Nam Hai. Before switching into full beach bum mode, ignite your foodie senses with a trip to Vy’s Market Restaurant. This fun, interactive and approachable space was conceptualized when Hội An-born and raised chef Ms Vy felt called to recreate the atmosphere and ambience of the local markets she remembers from childhood. She brought together a handful of the city’s best street vendors to create a tranquil space with a central courtyard surrounded by individual food stalls where guests are invited to see how dishes are prepared and cooked in the traditional way. From grilling rice crackers and roasting peanuts to making fresh bun and cao lầu noodles, the restaurant offers guests a unique culinary experience.

After tasting dozens of local delicacies (did someone say duck embryo?), it’s straight to stunning Intercontinental Danang Sun Peninsula Hotel. Located approximately a one-hour drive north of Hội An, you’ll be completely immersed in the lush hillside overlooking this dazzling private bay. Accommodations all come with epic views that are sure to impress once you’re done drooling over the Bill-Bensley designed interiors! Just taking in the sprawling property – split into Sea, Earth, Sky and Heaven levels – will keep you busy for a bit. Close the day on the beach with a cocktail in hand, followed by either a private dinner in the sand or chill meal at Barefoot.

7 Da Nang, Vietnam
Pool, Beach, Spa, Repeat.

After nearly a week of non-stop activity, today is your opportunity to truly relax. Enjoy breakfast in one of the Citron‘s Insta-famous pods hanging out over the hillside. Then, opt to lounge at the pool with a good read or even better, a spa treatment. Inspired by the practice of traditional Asian medicine and naturopathy, each HARNN treatment is thoughtfully designed to enhance wellness; only the finest botanical ingredients are used to create restorative harmony and health. After your day of R&R, freshen up for an upscale dinner at La Maison 1888. This on-property French dining outlet has the distinction of being the first restaurant in Vietnam to feature a world-renowned Michelin-starred chef, but be prepared for the setting to be as remarkable as the gastronomy.

8 Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Central to South Vietnam

Enjoy free time until your approximately one hour transfer to Danang Airport for your flight to Ho Chi Minh City, still known locally as Saigon. Upon arrival, A&K will handle your luggage and logistics as you’re transferred approximately 45-minutes downtown for your stay at the Park Hyatt Saigon. Centrally located near the elegant Opera House in the heart of the bustling city, this grand luxury hotel evokes a traditional colonial style. Get to know the surrounds with a walking tour including highlights of the city’s colonial legacy, from the Central Post Office to the Notre Dame Cathedral. Tonight, opt for dinner out or at the hotel which offers Italian, Vietnamese and Western cuisine. Don’t stay out too late, you have a big day of adventuring on deck tomorrow!

9 Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Tunnels, Jeeps + Critters!

This morning after enjoying the hotel’s renowned breakfast, you’ll take a 90-minute speedboat ride to the Cu Chi Tunnels. These underground passageways were a key Vietcong resource during the Vietnam War and your time here will give you an inside look into the extensive network of tunnels that were crafted decades ago. During a session translated by your A&K representative, you’ll have the chance to ask questions of one of the region’s Vietcong veterans. Then, you’ll have the opportunity to squeeze into and crawl through the small tunnels once traversed by Vietcong guerrillas before jumping into arguably your coolest ride of the trip, a vintage Jeep!

After getting to know your driver (and maybe getting familiar with that cooler of beers he brought along for the ride?), you’ll make a stop at local farm. But, not any kind of farm. This is a farm that raises, crickets, lizards, frogs and more exotic breeds. For the truly adventurous, your A&K guide will arrange a tasting of these critters; for those who want to keep it more basic, be sure to try the fried lemongrass. Once back in the city, hit the streets by motorbike to check out the local street art before cleaning up for your farewell dinner. Enjoy one last Vietnamese feast, ideally dressed in your traditional tailored clothing!

10 Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Departure (but add in a layover flow)

After breakfast at the Park Hyatt Saigon, enjoy free time until your Abercrombie & Kent guide meets and transfers you to Tan Son Nhat Airport for your departure flight home. If you’re flying Cathay and you’ve allotted yourself some extra time during that Hong Kong layover, get moving or even meditating in the 700-square foot space dubbed “The Sanctuary by Pure Yoga,” located inside The Pier Business Class Lounge. Your body will thank you for it!

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Contact your travel advisor to customize your very own Vietnam adventure.

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